Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the COVID-19 state of emergency for Tokyo and several surrounding regions will continue through September 12 rather than expiring at the end of this month after a surge in new cases over the past three days.
Tokyo announced 2,962 new daily cases on Monday, after a record 5,773 on Friday. All of Japan saw a record 20,400 cases that day.
Suga told reporters the surge in infections is reaching alarming levels. He said the state of emergency currently in effect for Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa will include three other areas - Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka, which are currently under a less severe COVID-19 status.
The state of emergency began in July, just before the start of the Tokyo Olympics. With the latest extension, the emergency will remain in force during the Paralympics Games August 24 through September 5.
Suga said the measures will become official Tuesday, following further consultations with experts. He also said hospital care was “a priority,” and people waiting at home to be hospitalized were getting checkups by phone. Critics say the government has not done enough to respond to the crisis in organizing the hospital system overall to accommodate those with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Japan’s state of emergency restricts commercial activity, with bars and restaurants told to close or stop serving alcohol, and movie theaters and karaoke parlors closed. Japanese laws limit how much the government can mandate, making the state of emergency declarations little more than requests for cooperation.
Just over one-third of the nation’s population has been fully vaccinated, even while the highly infectious delta variant of the coronavirus is reportedly spreading. Japan’s vaccine rollout got off to a relatively late start and is proceeding at a pace that is one of the slowest among industrialized nations.
Japan has had more than 15,000 COVID-19-related deaths, and worries have been growing about the health care system becoming increasingly stretched thin.
Some of the information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.